Populous nation dominates mart

Companies at this year’s Asian Television Forum in Singapore were looking for new formats, peering at new technologies and urging closer cooperation across borders within the Asian market.

And, as is often the case in areas outside the TV biz, the subject of China dominated many discussions.

China’s sheer size makes that inevitable. For example, the world’s most watched annual television show is still the Chinese Spring Festival Gala on state broadcaster CCTV, which is shown at Lunar New Year and watched by 700 million people. Also, Internet penetration in China is high, and hundreds of millions of Chinese watch content on their mobile phones.

At the same time, Chinese media are heavily regulated and censored. This year alone the government has introduced stringent limits on reality TV skeins and other light entertainment shows.

And foreigners have always found Chinese TV a tough nut to crack (Rupert Murdoch tried for years with Star TV before switching his focus to India).

Some U.S. orgs have succeeded in getting into China, however. L.A.-based Metan Development Group has signed various deals to bring content to China, including a pact with Fusion TV to provide action sports and adventure travel content, and a deal with the Associated Press to furnish fashion TV coverage in Mandarin on China’s digital and broadcast markets.

Zhu Danhong, project manager at Shanghai Wings Media, a unit of Shanghai Media Group, said Chinese companies are keen to buy foreign product but also want to sell Chinese content to neighboring countries in Asia, such as Korea and Japan, as well as other countries with strong Chinese cultural links, which includes most nations in Southeast Asia.

“We’re trying to encourage more companies to take Chinese films, animation and TV shows to Asia, Europe and Africa,” Zhu said at the company’s ATF stand, which was heavily attended by reps from many of China’s state-owned TV companies.

“Our interests are 3D (and) formats,” said Zhu, adding that Shanghai Media Group comprises 13 local channels; one satellite channel, Dragon TV, that shows “China’s Got Talent”; and an Internet TV service. The satellite channel alone reaches between 700 million and one billion people.

Zhu said she expects more cooperation with other Asian countries, especially Singapore.

That sentiment was echoed by Mohd Naguib Razak, director general of Malaysia’s National Film Development Corp., and by Myleeta Aga, GM and creative head of content and production at BBC Worldwide in Mumbai,.

Aga, who was an exec producer on “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” said that what she liked about ATF is the way it is about Asians talking to Asians. Like many Indians at the show, she was on the lookout for new formats.

“There’s no one big format that everyone is buzzing about,” she said. “Everyone is eager to see what’s next.” Discussions centered how certain formats would work in places such as Thailand, Vietnam or Singapore.

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